THE BLOG

The Bands Who Were Erased From History

22/07/2013 17:00 BST | Updated 21/09/2013 10:12 BST

Carter USM, Senseless Things, The Wonder Stuff & PWEI on vinyl

Last month, the BBC ran a chart of every Glastonbury Pyramid Stage headliner since the festival started (I'd link to it, but it seems to have disappeared). Over to the right of the chart, taking up quite a lot of space by virtue of the number of letters involved, were Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine.

Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, in case you've never heard them, were (and still are, on the occasions they do reunion gigs), a band that the UK should be fiercely proud of. A frantic barrage of wordplay, thumping beats and distorted guitars, they were critical darlings and hugely successful for a while in the early 90s (hence the fact that they headlined the Pyramid Stage). Yet somehow, like so many of the bands from that period, they seem to have been neatly erased from mainstream rock history.

Music is tied to our identities, of course, but never more so than when we're teenagers. As our groups of friends and classmates slam into the brick wall of puberty and fracture into different tribes, we sometimes choose to nail our colours to a particular musical mast and allow that to represent us. To let the bands we follow make a statement for us - this is how I'd express myself if I had the ability. This band is the way I'd sound if you could hear me screaming into the tornado of my teenage years.

As a 14-year-old, I was picking my way through the (in retrospect, rather endearing) landscape of 80s hair metal and dirty rock. I'd mow the lawn at my parents' house listening to Guns n Roses' 'Appetite for Destruction' as loud as my Dixons' own-brand Walkman knock-off would play. I'd crank up Def Leppard's 'Hysteria' and bounce around my room. I was a gloriously unselfconscious kid, cheerfully filing these newly discovered rebellions into a vinyl collection that otherwise included Paul Young and T'Pau albums bought in the months and years beforehand. I saw no incongruity because I had no pack mentality.

Then, towards the end of 1989, a buddy played me a track from Pop Will Eat Itself's still-brilliant album 'This is The Day, This is the Hour, This is This...' and something clicked in my head. I'd found my tribe, and I nailed my colours to that particular mast hard enough to split the goddamn wood.

I became an early 90s indie kid. Looking for Senseless Things bootlegs in dodgy underground markets. Waiting until the early hours to see a gig by Mega City Four because their bus had broken down en-route.

Wearing Ned's Atomic Dustbin shorts.

In winter.

By 1991, my music collection showed no trace of GNR, let alone Def Leppard. I'm pretty sure that The Sisters of Mercy were the only band to survive from my earlier collection to my new image-conscious one. And, like many people who dabble with one thing before settling on another, I held a real grudge against the big, brash, silly stuff that I'd enjoyed so much a mere summer beforehand.  In fact, I can remember standing staring at a cardboard standee of Angus Young in my local HMV and feeling a sort of anger. How could people listen to that *garbage* when they could be listening to, well, THE FIRST ALBUM BY GARBAGE?

Teen tribes subside, of course. My musical identity will always feel the closest allegiance to those UK indie bands of the early 90s but nowadays my iPod has got a lot more variety. I've even reinstated the purged bands from my early record collection (yes, T'Pau have been welcomed back into the fold, although I haven't got around to reacquiring any Paul Young yet, for some reason).

The erasure of my tribe from cultural history does trouble me a little, though. Music retrospectives so often seem to hop straight from Echo and the Bunnymen to Britpop, as if those years in the early 90s when The Wonder Stuff were front page news and Carter headlined Glastonbury never existed.

They existed, dammit, and they made me the guy I am today.

A guy who knows never, ever to wear shorts in winter. But at least I gave it a shot.